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Teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma are among the worst paid in the nation. Now West Virginia is in the midst of an eight-day walkout to demand higher wages and Oklahoma appears poised to follow.
The final straw for teachers was the legislative defeat in February of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, reports news9.com. The measure aimed to raise more than $700 million by imposing additional taxes on cigarettes, diesel fuel, and wind energy, as well as raise the gross production tax on oil wells from 2 percent to 4 percent. Some of that money would have been used to give teachers a $5,000 annual pay raise.
"We really are at a tipping point," Bartlesville superintendent Chuck McCauley told Tulsa World after the Step Up plan's collapse. "In addition to the five teachers we lost to Kansas last year, we have 12 teachers who are emergency certified. We are hiring people we wouldn't have even interviewed just a few years ago because there aren't more qualified applicants. Bottom line, that's impacting kids, and it's below the standard of what's expected in our community."
Meanwhile, in West Virginia, teachers are also calling for higher wages and better benefits, Madeline Will reports in Teacher Beat. They're in the midst of a massive eight-day strike that has shut down schools across the state. Teachers had reached a tentative agreement with the governor for a 5 percent pay raise, but when the West Virginia Senate trimmed it to 4 percent, union officials declared the strike would continue indefinitely.
Will Oklahoma teachers follow suit? We may soon know. The Oklahoma Education Association will today release the results of a survey of its members gauging support. Stay tuned for an update on this developing story.